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Oct 20 2020

Iron Spear 2020

Ādaži, Latvia - On October 10-15, the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia together with the Latvian Mechanized Infantry Brigade conducted IRON SPEAR. This armored gunnery competition saw a number of multinational crews currently deployed in the Baltic Sea Region.

IRON SPEAR is an international armored gunnery competition hosted twice a year by the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group (eFP BG) Latvia. Started in 2018, the intent of IRON SPEAR is to improve cohesion and interoperability across the eFPs in the Baltic States and Poland while simultaneously demonstrating NATO firepower. The competition has grown with each iteration and this year was no exception. With forty-four armored fighting vehicles representing twelve different NATO nations, this was the largest IRON SPEAR to date and it was an impressive display of skill, firepower, unity and deterrence.

Multinational armored crews in Ādaži range 
Photo by SSG Ēriks Kukutis, Latvijas Armija (Flickr)
German soldier zeroing a weapon
Photo by eFP Battle Group Latvia Public Affairs

To ensure the event was conducted in a safe manner during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers of IRON SPEAR implemented a set of precise restrictions. In particular, all participants travelling from outside of Latvia were required to submit a COVID-19 symptom free certificate to the Latvian authorities prior to entering Latvia. Participants then traveled directly to their camp site in the Camp Adazi Training Area without stopping. Upon arrival, all visiting participants were required to undergo a COVID-19 test and remain in isolation until the results were confirmed. Finally, throughout the competition, visiting participants were not permitted to have any close contact with soldiers or personnel outside of their respective organizations. These restrictions, although inconvenient, were necessary to ensure the safety of all involved. Moreover, these restrictions allowed the other eFPs to participate in IRON SPEAR, something that was not possible only seven months earlier during the last iteration of IRON SPEAR in March 2020. This is yet another demonstration of NATOs readiness and ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. 

Night firepower demonstration
Photo by Armīns Janiks, Latvijas Armija (Flickr)

Having overcome the challenges of getting participants to Latvia in a COVID-19 environment, the next challenge was how to design a competition for so many armored fighting vehicles. To overcome this challenge, the IRON SPEAR competition was split into two separate competitions. One competition was designed to challenge the unique skills required of an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) crew, whereas the other was designed to push the main battle tank (MBT) crews to their limit. In addition to these two competitions there was also a day time and a night time firepower demonstration. Both firepower demonstrations included armored fighting vehicles from Canada, Italy, Spain, Slovakia, Poland, Great-Britain, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, France and Latvia. Furthermore, during the day time firepower demonstration the United States Black Hawk helicopters and the Italian Euro Fighter jets were also involved adding more flags to the multinational event.

The IRON SPEAR competition took place from October 10–15 , and during this time the skill of the armored crews and the capabilities of their respective vehicles were on full display. In addition to the competitors, crowds gathered on the range each day to wave flags, cheer, and at times, sing songs to encourage their compatriots. The pride was palpable! Despite the exceptional performance of all participants, it was ultimately the Norwegian MBT and IFV crews who walked away with the IRON SPEAR trophy for the top MBT crew and the IRON CUP trophy for the top IFV crew. Following the awards ceremony, there were some great discussions (at a distance of course) that took place between the crews from the various nations. During these discussions the exchange of ideas was paralleled only by the exchange of patches and national flags. The camaraderie, friendship and cooperation both during and after the competition was a testament to the strength and unity of NATO. The eFP BG Latvia was proud to host this event and is looking forward to making it even better the next time around. 

Story by MAJ Matthew Bentley (eFP Battle Group Latvia, Canadian Armed Forces)

Photo by SSG Ēriks Kukutis, Latvijas Armija (Flickr)
U.S. Black Hawks over Ādaži range
Photo by SSG Ēriks Kukutis, Latvijas Armija (Flickr)
Norwegian crew celebrating victory
Photo by SSG Ēriks Kukutis, Latvijas Armija (Flickr)
Photo by eFP Battle Group Latvia Public Affairs

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